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Trends in Measuring Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Mitigation Quantification Methodologies

Authors: Erika Zambello, Lydia Olander, Emma Glidden-Lyon, Emily Meza, and Jessica Wilkinson

Over the last decade, efforts to use compensatory mitigation to manage and ameliorate the impacts of development on biodiversity and ecosystems around the world have accelerated. Mitigation mechanisms provide a structured way to advance economic development and infrastructure while also achieving environmental goals. In order to operationalize mitigation programs, practitioners need a methodology for calculating or quantifying impacts and offsets (debits and credits). The methods currently employed in the U.S. and abroad are extremely varied. Surprisingly, the literature on best practices or standards for developing science-based approaches to the quantification of impacts and offsets is sparse and there is also no single broadly accepted best practice guidance.

Publications

Are There Benefits to Integrating Corporate Health and Environmental Strategies? An Exploration of the Food/Agriculture and Textile Sectors

Authors: Vincent Gauthier, Lydia Olander, and Deborah Gallagher

Businesses impact environmental determinants of health and can play an important role in creating integrated approaches for promoting a healthy environment. This report describes the ways in which the food/agriculture and textile sectors affect environmental conditions that are associated with health risks and assesses how companies are tracking and addressing these interconnected issues. We define environmental and health strategy integration as having corporate goals, policies, metrics, initiatives, and products that strive to improve human health through reducing associated environmental impacts. We used company communication through sustainability reports as a proxy of whether or not companies are implementing environmental and health strategy integration. We followed up with company and industry group interviews to determine the advantages and disadvantages of health and environmental strategy integration. We found that 58% of companies recognized the connection between their environmental impacts and their associated health outcomes. Furthermore, we found that 46% of companies have products, operations, or programs that explicitly connect health and environmental issues within their strategy. This shows that some companies have integrated or are taking steps toward integrating their health and environmental strategies. Our company interviews indicated that integrating health and environment strategies can lead to internal efficiencies, clearer understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) purpose by stakeholders, and reduced cost of project implementations. On the other hand, companies pointed out potential challenges of integrating health and environmental strategies, including greater complexity and confusion, and higher costs of larger programs. Our report reveals that integrated health and environmental action is not standard practice within companies but is recognized and acted upon by many companies. Our research found that there are potential advantages to integrating health and environmental action, suggesting that companies may benefit from moving environment and health integration toward standard practice. Further research is necessary to develop the business case for company integration of health and environmental strategies. We hope that this report will engender greater discussion of this topic within the business and sustainability communities.

Publications

Reducing Environmental Risks from Belt and Road Initiative Investments in Transportation Infrastructure

Authors: Elizabeth Losos, Alexander Pfaff, Lydia Olander, Sara Mason, and Seth Morgan

The Belt and Road Initiative, due to its diverse and extensive infrastructure investments, poses a wide range of environmental risks. Some projects have easily identifiable and measurable impacts, such as energy projects' greenhouse gas emissions. Others, such as transportation infrastructure, due to their vast geographic reach, generate more complex and potentially more extensive environmental risks. The proposed Belt and Road Initiative rail and road investments have stimulated concerns because of the history of significant negative environmental impacts from large-scale transportation projects across the globe. This paper studies environmental risks—direct and indirect—from Belt and Road Initiative transportation projects and the mitigation strategies and policies to address them. The paper concludes with a recommendation on how to take advantage of the scale of the Belt and Road Initiative to address these concerns in a way not typically available to stand-alone projects. In short, this scale motivates and permits early integrated development and conservation planning.

Publications

Modeling Energy Efficiency as a Supply Resource

Authors: Etan Gumerman and Tibor Vegh

Energy efficiency may be an inexpensive way to meet future demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet little work has been attempted to estimate annual energy efficiency supply functions for electricity planning. The main advantage of using a supply function is that energy efficiency adoption can change as demand changes. Models such as Duke University’s Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) have had to rely on simplistic or fixed estimates of future energy efficiency from the literature rather than on estimates from energy efficiency supply curves. This paper attempts to develop a realistic energy efficiency supply curve and to improve on the current energy efficiency modeling. It suggests an alternative approach based on saved-energy cost data from program administrators and explains the methodologies employed to create the supply curve. It illustrates this approach with results from DIEM for various electricity demand scenarios. The analysis suggests that an additional 5–9% of energy efficiency is deployed for every 10% increase in the cost of electricity. Therefore, DIEM “invested” in energy efficiency up to an inelastic point on the energy efficiency supply curve. By contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s energy efficiency approach assumes that realized energy efficiency is fixed, and has no elasticity, regardless of changes to marginal costs or constraints that affect emissions or economics.

Publications

Issues on the Horizon at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Authors: Gabrielle Murnan, Zoe Ripecky, Jennifer Chen

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an independent agency regulating the interstate transport of energy. As innovations and changing consumer preferences reshape the energy industry, FERC must grapple with key issues. This policy brief summarizes pending issues before FERC, including grid resilience, market reforms that would affect newer technologies and non-emitting resources, and transmission and gas pipeline infrastructure build. How FERC decides on these issues would impact consumer costs, determine which resources would receive revenues from FERC-regulated markets, help shape infrastructure investments, and affect the costs of decarbonization policies.

Publications

Cross-Discipline Evidence Principles for Sustainability Policy

Authors : Edward T. Game, Heather Tallis, Lydia Olander, Steven M. Alexander, Jonah Busch, Nancy Cartwright, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Yuta J. Masuda, Anne-Christine Mupepele, Jiangxiao Qiu, Andrew Rooney, Erin Sills, and William J. Sutherland

Social and environmental systems are linked and, as this relationship becomes ever more apparent, governments, communities and organizations are increasingly faced with, and focused on, problems that are complex, wicked and transgress traditional disciplinary boundaries. This article in the journal Nature Sustainability suggests that evidence-based approaches to solve these complex multi-disciplinary challenges must draw on knowledge from the environment, development, and health domains. To address barriers to the consideration of evidence across domains, this paper develops an approach to evidence assessment that is broader and less hierarchical than the standards often applied within disciplines.

Publications

Beyond Financing: A Guide to Green Bank Design in the Southeast

Authors: Jennifer Weiss and Kate Konschnik

Green banks use funds to reduce the risk for private investment to support energy efficiency and clean energy. As local governments and corporations across the Southeast make progress on ambitious clean energy goals—including some with 100 percent renewable energy targets by as early as 2025—demand is growing for financing to make those goals attainable. This primer outlines the design elements of a green bank and explores how a green bank might leverage public funds in the Southeast to create a robust market for clean energy investment.

Publications

Addressing Declining Appropriations for Bureau of Reclamation Infrastructure: Policies Needed for Enabling Private Finance

Authors: Martin W. Doyle

Western water infrastructure was funded in the early and mid‐20th Century with federal financing through the Bureau of Reclamation. Over the last 30 years, federal financing has been less forthcoming, which has been commensurate with an increase in the need for financing rehabilitation and replacement of western irrigation infrastructure. This article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association suggests that if the Office of Management and Budget changed its policies for private partnerships or loan guarantees, private capital could play an important role in recapitalizing aging Reclamation infrastructure.

Publications

Improving Market Design to Align with Public Policy

Author: Jennifer Chen

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates wholesale capacity markets, is looking to reconcile market design with state, and potentially federal, policy preferences. In an effort to mitigate this apparent tension in the gas- and coal-heavy Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a framework on June 29 for carving out those policy-sponsored resources from PJM's capacity market. The June order poses many questions and leaves open many details for stakeholders to resolve ahead of the close of FERC’s initial round of public comments on October 2, 2018.  This policy brief offers recommendations to improve the efficiency of the developing proposals and help those responding to the FERC order understand the implications of different design choices related to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's proposal.

Publications

Private Environmental Governance in Oil and Gas: Unlocking the Complex Universe of Leading Management Practices

Authors: Kate Konschnik

In the United States, expansion of onshore fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies has sparked calls for greater control of industry impacts. Alongside fractured regulatory efforts, a broad private governance movement has encouraged adoption of voluntary measures—often called “best management practices.” To explore the role of best management practices in unconventional oil and natural gas production, this article in the Florida State Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law focuses on surface spills of hydrocarbons, drilling wastes, fracturing fluid, and wastewater at production sites. 

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